Posted on the 18th October 2017


A book on attracting birds to one’s garden, particularly by using mostly indigenous plants, has been long overdue. The vast majority of bird-watchers will spend the majority of their birding time in their own gardens. This is why Duncan Butchart’s long-awaited new publication on this topic is welcomed. I received my signed copy on Saturday evening and needless to say most of my Sunday was taken up by enjoying Duncan’s fresh and very well thought through approach to the topic.

I am always tempted to page through a book like this and first look at the photographs and drawings. I was immediately impressed by the quality of illustrations as one would expect from this artist of note. In cases where he did not have his own adequate images of species he used images provided by many well-known bird photographers - typical of this humble man’s approach to life. 

Duncan starts off by discussing the characteristics of a bird-friendly garden within the various climatic zones and biomes of southern Africa. This is followed by an overview of issues that one should consider when planning a bird-friendly garden. The provision of water, food and nesting sites are discussed in this regard. The next chapter highlights what one should look out for when watching birds in the garden and here the anatomy and calls of birds and feeding and breeding behaviour are explored. The approach is practical and should be very handy to novice and experienced birders alike.

The chapter on 101 fairly common garden birds to be found in southern African is delightful to say the least. Distribution maps are provided and the text is concise and most impressively mostly written from a gardening point of view. This created many “that I didn’t know” experiences for me and this is what I enjoyed most of the book. Each species is discussed with its feeding and breeding requirements and call. I also like the fact that the lifespan of each species is pertinently mentioned, leading to several “wow” reactions from me. Most importantly, the needs of the species in the garden are also highlighted. Each species description is ended off with a handy description of birds that the species might be confused with. Rock-spiders like me will probably ask why the author did not provide the Afrikaans names of species, but that is splitting hairs. 

For me as a bird-watcher and not much of a gardener the next section of the book is most inspiring. Fifty bird-friendly trees, shrubs and climbers are discussed and illustrated beautifully. Once again the descriptions are concise and practical, describing where the plant should be planted in the garden and which areas of the country would be best suited for it. And of course, Duncan describes which bird species and in some cases insects would be attracted to the plant – an ideal approach in assisting one to plan the lay-out of a garden. A few decorative plants are also illustrated. Finally Duncan discusses species that one can expect to find in the various botanical gardens throughout the country. When I looked at the gardens such as Kirstenbosch and Harold Porter that I know well, I found that he again has this spot on. 

The book is published by Struik Nature, endorsed by BirdLife South Africa and is available from leading retailers. Copies are also available from Duncan at or 082 772 1437. It retails for R 230.00. Duncan will be the guest speaker at BirdLife Overberg’s year-end function on 18 November when books will also be available – an ideal chance to obtain a copy signed by the author. This is a publication that will be appreciated by birders and gardeners alike and should be one of the most popular items in this year’s Xmas stockings.
Anton Odendal
18 October 2017














































































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